‘Can the artificial energy of technology be allowed to exceed the organic energy of humans?’

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Ratan Thiyam
Ratan Thiyam, 64, Playwright
Photo: Rohit Chawla

Your work has always looked back at history to make cogent comments on the present. Why is that?
If you look at human history, how much has really changed? A play is about humans and there has been a gradual development in human understanding. Without the past, there is no learning. It’s only when history confronts social, political and cultural factors from the present that there is an argument.

As someone who was an essential part of the ‘Theatre of Roots’ movement of the 1970s, do you think contemporary theatre has lost its currency?
Theatre is shaping up according to our times. Of course, there are changes, like in all art forms. We are now faced with new questions, like how much technology can you bring to theatre? Can the artificial energy of technology be allowed to exceed the organic energy of humans? Not much has changed in theatre economics, but we do have many young promising playwrights, actors, designers. In my own state of Manipur, I can think of many talented people. But we all need more patronisation and financial sources to survive. Theatre is not an industry like film, it needs state and central government support.

What is the one change you think theatre in this country needs?
I can answer your question, with questions of my own. Do we have a national philharmonic orchestra, or a national opera or a national theatre company? All other countries have these, but not India. We need to have a well-designed cultural policy in this country.

Sunaina Kumar is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka. 
sunaina@tehelka.com

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